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STC Board approves academic contract with border patrol

By Jonathan Salinas

South Texas College Board of Trustees in McAllen at regular board meeting October 26, 2019.

McAllen — In the latest move of increasing collaboration between South Texas College and law enforcement, the STC Board of Trustees approved an academic contract with United States Customs and Border Protection, a sub-agency of the Department of Homeland Security, at their regularly scheduled October board meeting.

The motion was recommended by college president Shirley Reed. Pending approval from the federal government, STC will offer an emergency medical technology certificate program beginning next year.

The certificate program would offer “highly technical” medical field training intended to prepare future agency employees to earn state and national EMT certifications, providing a “pathway” toward further certification or an Associate of Applied Science degree in Emergency Medical Technology.

The college’s hope is to “improve USCBP Personnel’s ability to deliver ‘out-of-hospital emergency care.” Although such degree requirements give the impression that USCBP agents are confronting enemy combatants, most field injuries are hardly the result of enemy combat. They tend to be injuries one might expect from clumsy people confronting the elements. When border agents do get into scuffles on the field, however, the agents tend to be found as the aggressors.

Because of their field training active duty border patrol agents will be able to receive up to six semester credit hours. Completion of the program, composed of “400 compact hours,” will make students eligible for National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT) exam certification, the Texas Department of State Health Services Texas EMT Basic Certification, and give students credit for up to six semester credit hours toward an academic Emergency Medical Technology degree upon full admission to the college.

The program will span the course of ten weeks. STC plans to organize the program into cohorts of 20 students, beginning this January and ending December 2020, at which time USCBP may continue or not.

Militarization of the border, education, is supported by local ruling class at the expense of rights

In recent years, South Texas College has made collaboration with DHS and other law enforcement agencies a top priority. When the college was approved by the state legislature to make the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence what Reed, at the time, said would become a first responders regional facility to “serve as the foundation for future expansion and development.” She added, “We do believe it will also provide access to local, state, and federal funding opportunities, particularly from the Department of Homeland Security.”

In 2018, the college inaugurated RCPSE — its Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence. The 64-acre site, in Pharr, Texas with 180 additional acres available for future expansion, provides training for local, county, state and federal professionals in law enforcement, public safety, fire science and homeland security along the US - Mexico border. The campus aspires to train future DHS officers.

In April, STC announced an official partnership with Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC), an interagency law enforcement training body that includes USCBP and the US Marshals. This marks the first federal partnership “training” agreement in the state of Texas.

U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-28-TX)—who was instrumental in shoring up the FLETC agreement, sits on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, has repeatedly voted border wall and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding, originally voted for DHS waiver authority to waive human rights laws in order to expedite border wall construction—delivered the keynote address at the April ceremony. Cuellar hailed this partnership as a model for other colleges and communities.

STC claims that this program will meet a high demand for law enforcement jobs while simultaneously taking part in the manufacture of such demand. To justify his most recent vote for border wall funding, Congressman Henry Cuellar, for example, cited border patrol and ICE job security as a reason to not shut down the government over border wall funding. Even local reps who voted against border wall funding, like Gonzalez and Vela, nonetheless advocate for increased border patrol presence and technology on the field.

Tax dollars may be expected to continue funding the militarization of the Rio Grande Valley and its education system. The RGCPSE was made possible by the City of Pharr, who donated one million dollars, the PSJA School District, who donated land, and Hidalgo, Starr County tax payers. Pharr Mayor, Dr. Ambrosio Hernandez, was on hand at the ceremony. He said homeland security needs a home and that the Rio Grande Valley is “ground zero.”

Although the Rio Grande Valley Sector ranks highest in the country for apprehensions, the vast majority of migrants arriving at the border are vulnerable refugees seeking asylum and fleeing persecution caused, in one way or another, by U.S. foreign policy in Central and South America. Do such people require a militarized response? Mobilizing mental health professionals, educators, social workers — which STC could help provide — is left unconsidered.

The motion to approve this contract between STC and USCBP was eagerly made, seconded, approved, passed unanimously without discussion, and comes at a time when DHS and USCBP, in particular, have received widespread criticism for civil and human rights violations.

DHS regularly waives human rights laws in order to expedite border wall construction. USBP is known to be rife with corruption, a culture of harassment and acts of cruelty against vulnerable people, such as taunting crying children recently separated from their parents, repeated use of excessive force and extrajudicial killings of migrants.

ICE has come under just as much legal scrutiny as USCBP in its interior operations and enforcement as immigration activists and leading presidential candidates, like Senator Bernie Sanders, have called for its abolition. Students at universities across the U.S. have demanded that their respective institutions divest from any agreements and holdings with ICE. Consumers have called on Amazon to do the same.

In her President’s Report, usually presented but only briefly mentioned at the October Board meeting, Reed reported that the National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) — a component of the U.S. Secret Service — and the Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence, hosted a training for “identifying potential threats within schools” October 10, 2019. Over 80 attendees from various cities, school districts, and agencies assisted the four-hour course presented by Secret Service Special Agent in Charge, Paul Duran and Agent Brian Gibson from the McAllen’s Secret Service office, according to Reed. Once again, Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez reportedly provided opening remarks.

Local Democratic and Republican Party leaders support the militarization of the border by and large. They ensure that the local economy relies on such jobs that require citizens to tyrannize undocumented people and to harass civilians. STC administration and leadership does its part by strategizing how to court federal agencies that can bring big dollars to the college. As a result, education is further commoditized and co-opted by law enforcement.

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